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Story tips, concerns, questions?

Junior setter Jordan Ramirez leads the Toros in assists this season. Photo courtesy of Toro Athletics.

By Jessica Olvera, Assistant Sports Editor

The CSUDH women’s volleyball team has established a reputation, but for all the wrong reasons. Since joining the NCAA in 1981, it has finished above .500 only twice, in 1984 (15-14), and 2017 (14-12).

However, the team had swept its way to a program-best start of 7-0 record in a non-conference schedule so far for the season. But a huge obstacle loomed last Saturday on its way to 8-0: a road game against crosstown rival Cal State LA, which had beaten them 32 of the last 36 times.

And though the Toros put up a strong fight against the Golden Eagles, recent history repeated itself, as they lost in four sets (25-14, 19-25, 15-25, 19-25).

Despite the loss, freshman Samaya Royal recorded nine block assists, which tied a record set five times, along with nine kills. Senior Taylor Benitez-Fanslow continued to lead the team in offense with 10 kills but fell one dig short from collecting her fourth double-double of the season.

“We came into the match pretty focused and I felt like we were prepared to perform,” head coach Jennifer Adeva said. “The team played phenomenal in the second and third set. CSULA is a good team that made adjustments to come back.”

The Toros visited the Golden Eagles for their first conference game of the season, following a pre-season schedule in which they dominated two tournaments.

First was the Toro Classic played in the Torodome, where CSUDH easily dispatched Humboldt State, Notre Dame de Namur, and the Academy of Art, not dropping a set in three straight 3-0 games.

Last weekend, the Toros traveled to the Bay Area for the Division II West Region Volleyball Showcase, which they again swept, beating Concordia (Oregon), Humboldt State (again), Fresno Pacific, and Dominican University.

During this 7-0 run, senior Benitez-Fanslow emerged as a crucial offensive component, leading the team with 79 kills and averaging a team-high 3.65 points per set. On the defensive end, junior Lynda Nguyen has emerged as the team leader in digs with 90, and freshman Royal came up big, leading the team with an average of 1.19 blocks per set.

“The team’s focus is on winning and we did what we were supposed to do with those teams,” Adeva said. “We were faced with adversity back in the tournament and used the experience to continue to improve in trying to work on one part of the game at a time.”

The Toros entered the game with a better record than CSULA, which sat at 4-4. However, three of those losses were to schools ranked in the top 20 in Division II volleyball.

The Golden Eagles have two studs leading the team. One is Karla Santos, currently fourth in the conference with 113 kills and third in points per set with 4.47. The other is Daisy Crenshaw, who is second in the conference with 1.31 blocks per set.

In their meetings last year, Cal State LA won in straight sets against the Toros, 3-0. The Golden Eagles have dominated the rivalry, going 32-4 since 2000. The Toros did post road wins in 2016 and 2017.

One reason for the Toros’ less than stellar performance for most of the volleyball team’s history in that the California Collegiate Athletic Association is traditionally stacked. This year is no exception as in the NCAA’s Division II West region, half the top teams are from the CCAA: Cal State San Bernardino (#2), Cal State LA (#3), Cal Poly Pomona (#4), Cal State Monterey Bay (#8), and Cal State East Bay (#9).

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